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Bailie gets his buzz back lending a helping hand at Sirocco

By Martin Mawhinney

After a five-year hiatus from the Amateur League, Mark Bailie admits he is rediscovering his “buzz” for the game at Sirocco Works - even if his first month at the club has been far from plain sailing.

The former Abbey Villa manager, who together with brother Graham jointly led the Millisle side to Border Cup glory back in 2007, has been helping Sirocco’s manager Alan Crooks and assistant Darren Frame, as they attempt to plot their way out of the lower reaches of Division 1B.

Despite Sirocco’s current position in the bottom half of the table, Bailie believes he has seen enough to convince him that a promotion bid could be within the club’s grasp, with a little hard work and good fortune… even if he was beginning to start to question the impact he was having on their prospects.

With his tongue firmly in his cheek, he joked: “They are a really decent-looking side - before I arrived, they had beaten Glebe, Ards Rangers and Brantwood - but in the three games since I joined, they lost against Lower Maze, Bryansburn and Rathfriland. I thought I might be for the sack!”

No loss is a good thing, but at least for Sirocco, there is the consolation that those defeats came mostly in cup competitions, and the priority of league progress remains a realistic goal.

Largely due to work commitments, Bailie’s involvement in the local football scene has been minimal over the last few years. But he has been impressed by what he has seen at Sirocco to date.

He said: “Alan and Framer have done a great job after taking over from Darren Lockhart at the end of last season at a time when the club maybe wasn’t in the best shape.

“But they have stabilised it, and can maybe look at competing towards the the end of the season. I know Ballynahinch Olympic look like they are running away with it at the minute (with 34 points from a possible 39), but our league campaign is really only starting (with only seven games played).

“I suppose they brought me in as someone with a bit of experience. Alan and Framer had brilliant playing careers and are good coaches, but they are quite new to the management bit, so maybe I can help.”

Bailie doesn’t even consider himself to have an official role at the club. He just wants to help in any way he can, if and when it’s asked for. After all, when leaving Abbey Villa and in the years that have followed, he and his brother have consistently given indications that a return to football was unlikely.

He continued: “I wasn’t really looking to get back in, but Daniel (Boyd, Sirocco secretary) got in touch with me to ask me. I was on the board at Bangor last year, and it gave me a bit of my buzz back for football.

“With this, I am committed, without being fully committed. I am basically here for Alan and Framer to bounce things off, and I am enjoying it too.”

So with a renewed appetite for the Amateur League and a sense of getting back into the familiar old routine, is there a chance that we could see Bailie - and maybe even his brother too - back in full-time management one day?

He added: “I never say never… but Graham is really tied up with work. None of the two of us could commit 100 per cent, so that is why this situation suits me at the moment.

“I have to admit though, it is strange not having Graham with me at Sirocco. Now I have no-one to blame when we lose!”

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